Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Fanboy fascism, the Avengers and Sam Jackson

Last week, I pondered the hysterical responses to the smattering of negative reviews of Marvel Avengers Dissemble on Rotten Tomatoes. At this point, the film had not even opened — indeed, it wouldn’t open for another 10 days in the …

Sun, May 6, 2012, 19:02


Last week, I pondered the hysterical responses to the smattering of negative reviews of Marvel Avengers Dissemble on Rotten Tomatoes. At this point, the film had not even opened — indeed, it wouldn’t open for another 10 days in the USA — but this did not stop posters from tearing strips of any critic who expressed any reservations about the Marvel ensemble adventure. What really struck me was the extraordinary misogyny on display. If the critic was a woman she was sure to attract the most appallingly sexist remarks. “The 1st person to complain is a woman, go f**king figure,” somebody said of Amy Nicholson. Other female critics were told to return to the kitchen or get their hair done instead of reviewing movies. I have always seen Joss Whedon, director of the film, as something of a feminist. So, I am sure he would be appalled by this strain of cave-man bellowing.

I see A O Scott. Let’s get him!

The other tedious — though less contemptible — recurring theme was an obsession with so-called “spoilers”. It seems that, for many posters, spotting elements of plot in reviewers’ synopses has become an outright obsession. One particular narrative turn, when revealed by reviewers, again and again drew unrestrained ire from the posting community. The fact that the incident happened in the first 10 minutes of the picture did not in any way deaden their righteous fury. By these standards, critics would be forbidden from noting that Titanic took place largely at sea. Golly. Folk just love to feel annoyed. Do they not?

Now Samuel Jackson himself has waded in. A O Scott, distinguished critic with The New York Times, dared to dislike the picture. Worse still, he expressed  reservations about the entire comic book genre. Tony Scott (that’s really what he’s called) wrote: “The light, amusing bits cannot overcome the grinding, hectic emptiness, the bloated cynicism that is less a shortcoming of this particular film than a feature of the genre.” Oh dear. Oh dear. You’re unearthing a whole pit of snakes here, old man.

I’ve done this joke before. Haven’t I?

Sam Jackson, who plays Nick Fury in the film, quickly got to the head of the mob with burning torches. “Avengers fans, NY Times critic AO Scott needs a new job,” he wrote on stupid Twitter. “Let’s help him find one! One he can ACTUALLY do!” The online bruisers saw Scott’s quote as evidence of the critic’s unsuitability for this particular task. Apparently, a critic has to be a fan of a particular genre before being allowed to review a film within that category. This is not quite nonsense. But it overstates the case. Of course, a film reviewer should try and grasp the dynamics of a film genre before embarking on a critique. But, if he or she sees limitation in the form — and is able to express them articulately — then he or she is entirely within their rights to work those supposed reservations into any review. Where would such prohibitions end? Only those who like 3-D should review bumpy films? Only fans of Rob Scneider should tackle that actor’s atrocities? Hold on a moment.

I admit that, when it comes to horror, I have often raged at critics — particularly those from the US — who don’t seem to understand the way such pictures function. This does not mean that I feel they should be fired and replaced by Rob Zombie. I merely think they should open their minds a little.

Anyway, Jackson’s remarks have triggered an interesting backlash. The brilliant Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker, mused: “@AOScott His call for you to lose your job only supports your point about ‘glowering authoritarianism’ in pop culture”. Matthew Seitz, who writes for New York magazine, went further: ”The latent fascism of fanboy culture manifests itself through Samuel L Jackson. ‘A few negative reviews in hundreds? Get ‘em, boys!’” This appears like only mild hyperbole to me. The fanboy mob seems to collectively regard any divergence from orthodoxy as an excuse for unhinged rudeness and untempered hysteria. It should go without saying that those with the loudest online voices do not represent the majority of comic-book fans. But they do give the cadre a very bad name. Would everybody please calm down.


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